Answer The Call

Kyle Busta '19, an environmental studies major from New Prague, Minnesota, makes calls on Give SJU Day.

Kyle Busta '19, an environmental studies major from New Prague, Minnesota, makes calls on Give SJU Day.

Each year about 27,000 people get phone calls from Saint John’s. When they see that 320-363-3000 number appear on their phones, various feelings may arise – joy, apprehension, or duty – or the busy rush of having just sat down to dinner.

No matter the reaction, on the other end of that phone line is a Johnnie – a capable, bright, friendly Student Ambassador.

The 26 Student Ambassadors come from Texas, Michigan, Kansas, Illinois, Florida, Minnesota and the Bahamas. They pursue diverse courses of study, ranging from physics to philosophy, and they play sports including varsity basketball, intramural soccer and track & field. They perform in a number of music ensembles including the SJU Men’s Chorus and CSB/SJU Wind Ensemble. In short, they are regular guys, and representative Johnnies. The call center, located on the fourth floor of the Quad, operates from 6 to 9 p.m. most weeknights throughout the academic year.

While some may cringe at the thought of calling others for money, our Student Ambassadors actually thrive in their role. They do much more than ask; they thank donors, update parents on life at Saint John’s, check in on young alumni, invite alumni to Reunion, and more. They truly enjoy deepening relationships between Saint John’s and alumni, parents and friends. And for many of these constituents, the phone call from a Student Ambassador many be the only time all year they actually speak with someone from Saint John’s. It can be an extremely meaningful touch point for some, and the Student Ambassadors enjoy relating with people from different generations and geographic places but who share common values and connection to Saint John’s. Many relationships have been formed between alumni and Student Ambassadors who both had Fr. Rene McGraw as a faculty resident, for example, or who both went on their first international plane flight to a semester abroad in Ireland.

In addition to phone calls, Student Ambassadors provide hospitality to alumni, parents and friends at Reunion every summer, at Homecoming every fall, at every home football game, and at dozens of alumni and donor events on and off campus each year. Student Ambassadors share their own stories and experiences with guests and make them feel welcomed as if they were home. Soon, Student Ambassadors will be leading personal tours of the Saint John’s campus for small groups of alumni who have been away for many years. These experiences are all designed to connect donors and guests with our cause: the education of young men who are talented and eager to do good for others.

But the donors aren’t the only beneficiaries. These Student Ambassadors like to say they have one of the best jobs on campus. Rather than pushing papers or sitting at a desk doing homework, they are gaining valuable and real skills. Many of our Student Ambassadors go on to careers in sales and management. Some work in finance and accounting, others in marketing, and others in teaching and coaching. They credit their confidence, teamwork and tenacity to the experience of working in Institutional Advancement.

Beyond the impressive results – the Student Ambassador program raised $178,461 for the Student Fund from 1,358 donors last year – they make a lasting impact on relationships on behalf of Saint John’s. Those relationships can be felt long into the future. Whenever we get a big planned gift pledge, I like to look up how many times that donor talked with our Student Ambassadors. More often than not, these large gifts were preceded by 25 or 30 consecutive years of modest Student Fund pledges, made over the phone to Student Ambassadors. While I know every donor is different and each gift inspired for a different reason, I like to think that the consistent, grounded conversation with students is important to these parents and alumni.

So, the next time you get a call from Saint John’s, consider answering. You may just meet a great young man from a first-generation family in St. Paul, or a legacy Johnnie from Chicago, on the other end of the line. And you may enjoy talking with him, too. I know he’ll enjoy talking with you.

[Editor’s note: if you are not currently receiving calls from our Student Ambassadors, but would like to begin receiving them, simply email Raj Chaphalkar, director of annual giving.]